Widespread violence broke out in Kenya after President Mwai Kibaki declared himself victorious following disputed elections in late December 2007. The conflict claimed an estimated 1,000 lives and drove hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, many of whom have yet to return.
Mennonite Central Committee—a relief, service, and peace agency of the North American Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches—is supporting a Kenyan organization, Nairobi Peace Initiative-Africa, in a project to reconcile Kenyans divided by ethnic and political differences. George Kut, a coordinator for NPI-Africa, described this “listening project” in an interview this spring with Tim Shenk, a writer for MCC.
Tim Shenk: How did the National Peace Initiative (NPI) listening project get started?
George Kut: When the election results were announced, there was a lot of violence that erupted in different parts of the country, particularly those parts that supported the Orange Democratic Movement, which was the major opposition during the campaign. Because of the violence, the killings, a lot of looting, and a lot of very violent demonstrations, we needed to consider the ideas, the stories, and the images that people of Kenya hold of the crisis and in time be able to translate this into leadership capacities for peace.
At NPI, we decided to go out to those people and listen to their stories, to hear what sense they made of the particular violence that was going on. That was really the purpose of the listening project.
Did this involve people who were committing the violence, as well as others affected by it?